Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Alabama Crimson Tide (Last Year: 21-12, 9-7 in SEC)
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: Nick Jacobs (So)/Carl Engstrom (Jr)/Moussa Gueye (Jr)
F: Devonta Pollard (Fr)
G/F: Levi Randolph (So)/Rodney Cooper (So)
G: Trevor Lacey (So)/Andrew Steele (Sr)
PG: Trevor Releford (Jr)/Retin Obasohan (Fr)
F/C-JaMychal Green, SF-Tony Mitchell, G-Ben Eblen, G/F-Charles Hankerson (transfer-Wyoming)
The Alabama Crimson Tide suffered through its share of ups and downs last season before being a one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament. Despite having a young, thin roster, Anthony Grant should have Alabama in the upper half of the SEC standings and back in the Big Dance.
The M.O. of the Crimson Tide under Grant's tutelage has been the hard-nosed defensive play and full-court style of getting after it. That was the key to the team's success last year as it struggled to score the basketball, so putting points on the scoreboard will once again be a concern especially without JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell.
It is time for Trevor Releford to emerge as the true leader of this squad and take on more of a scoring load. He didn't quite make the expected improvement from his freshman year to his sophomore campaign as would have been hoped, but was still productive especially on the defensive end.
The talented 2011 class of Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper didn't wow anyone in its first season in Tuscaloosa, but will be expected to take a step forward as sophomore. The growth and development of this trio will be essential for Alabama to maximize its potential this year. All three, especially Lacey, need to step up on the offensive end while continuing to use their athleticism to wreak havoc defensively.
Andrew Steele brings a sense of stability to the floor as the lone senior on the team. He has battled injury issues throughout his collegiate career but remains a key contributor due to his versatility. Redshirt freshman Retin Obasohan is another physical guard who will look to earn minutes off the bench as well.
Green's absence leaves a huge hole inside, and the duo of Nick Jacobs and Devonta Pollard will hope to fill the void. Jacobs brings physicality to the frontcourt and has a decent enough low post game to give the Crimson Tide somewhat of an inside presence. The McDonald's All-American Pollard gave a late commitment to Grant, which was a huge get since Alabama doesn't have a player with his type of athleticism in its frontcourt. Seven-footers Moussa Gueye and Carl Engstrom bring size and depth, but not a whole lot of skill off the bench.
Because of how hard Alabama plays and the way the team defends, you just cannot count it out under Anthony Grant. Depth will be a concern with only ten scholarship players on the roster, and the Crimons Tide must shoot it better from three (last year the school shot just 28.9%.) The bottom half of the SEC has a handful of pretty crappy teams, so Alabama will be in the upper half of the standings and should head back to the tournament.
Player to Watch: Devonta Pollard, F
The 6-8 forward didn't announce his college decision until June 1st, when he chose Alabama over Texas, Georgetown, and Missouri, and is the lone member of the Crimson Tide's 2012 recruiting class. Part of the reason he chose Alabam was because of its style of play, and with the need for athletic forwards, he should make his presence felt right away.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 vs. Oregon State (2k Sports Classic)
11/16 vs. Purdue/Villanova (2k Sports Classic)
12/1 at Cincinnati
12/5 vs. Dayton
12/15 at VCU
12/19 at Texas Tech
Predicted SEC Finish: 5th
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